Weekend Warm-Up: The Northernmost Road

I’ve decided that Albert Einstein was incorrect when he said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing and expecting a different outcome. In my eyes, insanity is bike-packing 3,000km in Siberia where temperatures plummet to -50˚C. On a good day, they’ll reach a balmy -5˚. Therefore, I must conclude that Lorenzo Barone is insane, by definition.

It’s not that spending 50 days on a bike through nature’s harshest elements wouldn’t be thrilling. I can see the merit in trying something physically demanding outdoors. It’s just that the cold makes me miserable.

Waking in my conservatively insulated home on New Zealand’s rugged coastline, when the sky outside my window is bleak grey, makes me grumpy. No matter how many layers of thermal, merino, and down I can muster, nothing prompts me to smile when forced to set foot outdoors. Barone appears to sing a different tune.

Barone is 23 years young. He’s spent the last six years traveling around the world by bike. Initially, he wanted to “step outside my comfort zone”. When he turned 18, he took his first big bike adventure, 8,000km from his home in central Italy to Portugal. And back.

The following year, during an eight-month ride from Terni, Italy to North Cape (the northern tip of continental Europe), winter struck. Barone instantly became fascinated with riding in extreme places –- the Himalaya, Sahara, and recently, The Northernmost Road, Siberia.

Blown tires, knee injury

It took three attempts for Barone to pedal this road. His first attempt in December 2020 lasted just one day before his tires burst. That’s one of the issues with carrying 77kg on a bike in subzero temperatures.

He set off again nine days later, and the same thing happened. Finally, in February 2021, Barone gave it a third attempt. Partway through, he suffered a knee injury. He left his bike at a village and headed home briefly to recover. After 21 days, he returned to complete the journey.

Barone subscribed to the urban myth of surrounding a tent with red flags to deter wolves. Photo: Lorenzo Barone


The road took 50 days to cycle. Some nights, Barone slept in hostels or as the guest of hospitable locals. It’s clear that Siberians greet these sorts of antics warmly. The old Russian love for the holy fool, perhaps. But mostly, Barone slept in his tent which he surrounded with small red flags to deter wolves. In case that didn’t work, he also carried a cap gun.

Wolves aren’t the only risk of riding in these conditions. One major obstacle for Barone was sweat. He carefully monitored how much clothing he needed. Too little, he froze. Too much, he sweated and froze later. Striking the right balance was important.

Unsurprisingly, the road Barone biked on –- if you can call a space laden with snow a road — is considered one of the most dangerous in the world. When trucks pause to check if he’s ok, they do so out of genuine concern.

Barone understands the risks involved, but he’s clearly elated by his adventure. When he rides into grey bleakness, with no signs of life around and barely any clue that he’s traveling in the right direction, I recall my own sense of distaste with winter. Yet he looks utterly glowing.

Although, who knows, that could also be because he met and married his wife, Aygul, during this trip.

Testing physical limits has its advantages. Lorenzo Barone met Aygul and married her during his Siberian adventure. Photo: Lorenzo Barone